Collaborative Name:

Spartanburg’s Way to Wellville

Wellville Coordinator:

Jennifer MacPhail

Backbone Organization:

Mary Black Foundation

Core Team:

  • Kathleen Brady, Community Research Group
  • Kyle Brunen, University of South Carolina, Upstate
  • Kathy Dunleavy, Community volunteer
  • Elizabeth Fletcher, Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System
  • Karen Fradua, Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System
  • Jennifer MacPhail, Way to Wellville Coordinator
  • Samantha Overton, Way to Wellville Neighborhood Engagement Coordinator
  • Carey Rothschild, Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System
  • Betsy Neely Sikma, Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Chris Story, City of Spartanburg
  • Molly Talbot-Metz, Mary Black Foundation
  • Heather Witt, United Way of the Piedmont

Community Snapshot
The city of Spartanburg, the seat of Spartanburg County, is situated in northwest South Carolina. Up until the end of the 20th century, the textile industry provided well-paying, blue-collar jobs for residents who lacked higher education. Currently, top local employers include the Spartanburg Regional Health System, the county government and the seven local school districts. Jobs at newer regional employers, including a BMW manufacturing facility, require higher levels of education and more technical expertise. This education/skills gap is one of the key issues to population health and well-being.
The population consists of both wealthy and very poor residents and an almost-even split between non-Hispanic whites and people of color. Over the past decade, developers and community leaders have spearheaded an effort to revitalize Spartanburg’s downtown commercial district, which includes Wofford College and the corporate headquarters for Denny’s. In addition, Spartanburg community leaders have a recent history of collaboration to improve the health and well-being of residents, with successes including lower rates of unwanted teen pregnancies and improved access to education. In 2015, Spartanburg was one winner of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize. The bigger challenge facing these leaders is to alter the underlying policy and systems landscape that constrain certain population sectors and limited their opportunities.
Population: 37,570
  Non-Hispanic black: 48.1%
  Non-Hispanic white: 44.8%
  Hispanic/Latino: 3.8%
  Asian: 1.6%
  Other: 1.2%

Area: 19.2 square miles
Median household income: $35,637
Poverty rate: 26.6%
Child poverty rate: 45.7%
Unemployment rate: 15%
High school graduation rate: 81%
Homelessness: 227 individuals (county-wide)
Diabetes rate (adult): 12.8% (county)
Obesity rate (adult): 29.6% (county)
Obesity rate (child):
  Non-Hispanic white: 47.9%
  Black: 37.8%
  White: 30.5%

Areas of Focus and Work

Current Initiatives

Neighborhood engagement:The neighborhood engagement team initiated a listening campaign to give voice and foster agency among residents in marginalized, underserved communities in the city. All seven of the neighborhoods that completed the listening campaign applied for and received Mary Black Foundation micro grants to fund local projects that address concerns articulated by residents during the listen sessions. More recently, the team is working more closely with city administration to better understand and address the underlying issues keeping residents stuck in recurring cycles of disadvantage.

Inspired by their Wellville colleagues in Clatsop County Wellville, the Spartanburg team also launched a movie/speaker series called “Wellville Talk.” Past and planned topics include the social determinants of health, adverse childhood experiences, resilience, and the role employers play in promoting and engaging their workforces in health and wellbeing.

Hello Family is a continuum of support programs that would be available at no cost to all families in the City of Spartanburg expecting or with children up to five years old. Its goal is to improve early childhood development and support families. The team is actively pursuing plans to fund four of the programs through pay-for-success financing.

Wellville Exchange is a small business wellbeing co-op being developed by the by Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with a group of small business owners and with support from the Georgia Health Policy Center and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Once launched, the program will provide small employers and their employees access to some of the same well-being services large employers are able to offer their associates through their insurance plans.